One of the most difficult things that I struggle with is forgiving myself.

I have trouble letting myself off the hook for things I did and things I didn’t do in my life.  I have regrets about some of my past choices and I can get tangled in a spiral of depressing thoughts about it.

This is fairly common.  A lot of my friends have expressed sadness that they didn’t stay home with their children, or that they didn’t focus on their career.  They regret the years they stayed in a bad relationship and blame themselves for not having had the courage to leave sooner.  When we look at our past like this, we can find so many regrets.

When I start saying – ‘I should have done this, or I should have done that’, I know I am in that lonely deep place.

It is so cruel to say all these ‘should haves’ to yourself.

It took me a long time to come to the decision to leave a bad relationship.  When I look back, I could say – I should have left sooner.  There were a lot of clues that I see now, but at the time I couldn’t see it.

  • People tried to tell me that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
  • He showed me that he was not going to change.
  • My family had given up on trying to help me because I wasn’t doing what they thought I should do.

There was a clear moment where something shifted in my head. All the clues came together and I finally understood.  We had an argument and he rushed at me with such rage and anger that I knew he was capable of physical violence toward me.  I knew that the next time, he would hit me, or worse.

I had been gathering the breadcrumbs for a long time.  I knew that he would role model disrespect for women and that my sons would learn that.

I realized that I could not love him enough to fix him.

I realized that where we lived didn’t matter, who he worked for didn’t matter; the presence or absence of friends or family in his life didn’t matter.  Understanding how his upbringing had shaped him was not enough.  He was not open to change.  He was going to live from a place of deep anger and if I stayed, I would become despised and disrespected for letting him treat me that way.  I was also very aware that our children were at risk and that was a huge motivation for me.  The mother lion’s instinct to protect her cubs rose up in me and I made a better choice.

Some would say that I should have left sooner, but I really didn’t know, not deep down.

If you are blaming yourself for a past choice, take a moment to really look at the person you were then.  Look at that younger person from the past and ask – Could they have done anything different in that moment?  Remember that they didn’t have the benefit of your wisdom from years of living life. They were who they were then, and they only knew what they knew at the time.

They did their very best at that moment in time.

Forgiving past choices is a difficult thing for most people to do.  Give yourself a break.  Your best is good enough. We want to love and forgive everyone but we often forget about ourselves.

You are worthy of forgiveness and compassion.  Believe it.

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This discussion was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert speaking on forgiveness and love at the Self Acceptance Summit